If your winter shopping trips are usually limited to indoor centres, a visit to Austria will provide an infinitely more soulful experience. The many open-air markets which take place throughout the latter half of the year offer a refreshing alternative, and a wonderful selection of goods.
Vienna has some of the most famous markets in the world. The renowned Naschmarkt on Wienzeile is picturesque and perfect for anyone who enjoys a good barter. Here you will get a full flavour of Vienna’s local scene, with everything from souvenirs to artisanal foods.
If you can’t resist the possibility of a vintage find, Vienna’s Flohmarkt (flea market), which takes place at the end of Naschmarkt every Saturday, should be your first port of call. Covering several streets, the market has a loyal following of local residents looking for second-hand curiosities, books, records, clothing, postcards and electrical goods as well as valuable antiques. The real draw here is the atmosphere, but if you’d rather avoid the crowds, arrive earlier or later in the day when most people have gone home.
Spittelberg, described as ‘a village in the city’, is home to one of the most famous markets in Vienna, which brings together arts and crafts with food and drink. As Christmas approaches, Spittelberg morphs into one of Austria’s most beautiful winter markets. It is a great place to source unique and unusual gifts while sipping a mug of steaming glühwein – a mulled wine and an essential on any trip to a winter market. Glühwein can be enjoyed alongside other traditional delicacies such as feuerzangenbowle, a fiery punch, and lebkuchen – soft ginger biscuits flavoured with spices and topped with icing.
Decades of delights
Winter markets in Austria date back to 1294 and the rich history of the tradition adds to their charm. Take in the beautiful neo-Gothic architecture of Vienna’s Rathaus (town hall) as you explore the Rathausplatz market, one of the city’s largest. Here you’ll enjoy a typical Austrian market experience, with the smell of roasted chestnuts filling the air.
Outstanding markets in other parts of the country are also worth visiting. Linz is known for its famous torte, which is sold alongside other sweet treats. The markets in the romantic city of Graz are an enchanting spectacle, while Schönbrunn’s baroque aesthetic is the perfect setting for the crafts and local artefacts on sale.
Part of the appeal of Austria’s markets lies in their locations, and many of these towns and neighbourhoods come to life at this time of year. Take a trip to Salzburg to experience the many little booths that sell arts, crafts and local delicacies, and enjoy being serenaded by the famous Salzburg choir. Travel up to the mountain village of Kitzbühel and breathe the fresh Alpine air while perusing the array of locally crafted gifts against a snowy white backdrop. Whichever you choose, a trip to an Austrian winter market will provide a novel and rich shopping experience.